After finishing bottom two years running, Kings XI Punjab are one win away from the play-offs. Paul Krishnamurty says momentum gives them the edge over Pune in this group finale...
"Kings XI are marginally preferred at better than even money. They certainly have momemtum after beating two superior outfits and, with the hosts missing Tahir, Punjab's explosive batsmen could be hard to contain."
Rising Pune Supergiant v Kings XI Punjab
Sunday, 11:30 BST
Live on Sky Sports 2
Rising Pune Supergiant
This year's two most improved sides could well be competing for the final play-off spot here, if Sunrisers have already earned theirs on Saturday. Pune have a two point advantage but an inferior run-rate means a win would ensure Punjab get the higher place.
They will be disappointed to be in this position, after being set 169 by Delhi on Friday. With hindsight, a bowling attack now shorn of Imran Tahir for the rest of the season probably conceded too many. Although their economies are respectable, Pune lack a truly world-class alternative. Adam Zampa has great potential but didn't maximise spin-friendly conditions in Delhi.
On the plus side, Ben Stokes was outstanding in all disciplines and regardless of that failure, this batting line-up remains extremely strong, with six different players contributing at least 240 runs. The middle-order quartet of MS Dhoni, Stokes, Manoj Tiwary and Dan Christian are capable of anything at the death.
Kings XI Punjab
From starting the week knowing they could afford no mistakes, Punjab have risen to the challenge and now control their own destiny. Win this and they're in the play-offs. After beating table-topping Mumbai and KKR in their last two matches, they must be brimming with confidence.
In scoring 230 against the former, Kings XI showed just how good they are in batting-friendly conditions. It also demonstrated they have the depth to cope with losing Hashim Amla to international duty. Filling in as opener, Wriddhiman Saha became their latest big contributor with 93 but nobody has come close to Amla's consistency.
Scores at the Maharashtra Stadium have come down significantly in the last two games. The first four matches yielded nothing worse in the first innings than 176 - three of which were chased down - but the last two were just 157 and 161. This is normal for the latter stages of the season.
Pitch information is essential before we strike any bets. If the pitch is new, big scores are very realistic and, with both sides stacked with power, I'd be happy to back overs in any of the bands from 180 upwards. However if it's a used pitch, 160 could be very competitive.
These sides seem very evenly matched and on that basis Kings XI are marginally preferred at better than even money. They certainly have momemtum after beating two superior outfits and, with the hosts missing Tahir, Punjab's explosive batsmen could be hard to contain.
Pune have so many powerful options that it's always worth looking beyond the top-order. Any one of that aforementioned middle-order quartet is liable to be promoted if quick runs are needed. Ben Stokes is finishing the season off in great style and is fair value around [5.6].
Likewise, Punjab have numerous options as Saha's elevation demonstrated, but that is reflected by shorter odds. One man sure to get an early slot is Shaun Marsh, whose experience is invaluable in Amla's absence. The Aussie has been playing solidly so I'll go for him at [4.5].
Back Kings XI Punjab 4u @ [2.1]
*(a 'unit' is a typical bet - if you'd normally bet, say, £10, the recommendation here is £40)
Follow Paul on Twitter @paulmotty
Stakes: 52.4 units
Returns: 34.94 units
(Includes 6 units @ 6.2 on Sunrisers Hyderabad to win IPL 2017)